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December 29, 1989 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-29

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Teen Diets:

Choices & Challenges


Special to The Jewish News


indy is a bit chubby
— okay, a lot chubby.
She could definitely
lose 30 pounds and not only
look better but feel better, too.
Mindy is not alone. A recent
study reports that many more
American teenagers — girls
and boys — are overweight
than 20 years ago.
From the early 1960s to the
early 1980s, rates of obesity
among girls ages 12 to 17 rose
58 percent; among boys ages
12 to 17, 18 percent, according
to Dr. Steven Gortmaker, ac-
ting chairman of the depart-
ment of behavioral sciences at
the Harvard University
School of Public Health.

Although Gortmaker can-
not account for the difference
between girls and boys, he
does have an explanation for
the rise in obesity. "Dietary
intake doesn't show much
change over time:' he says,
"but we have noticed a
substantial decrease in the
level of activity, especially the
time spent watching TV"
Citing a 1983 A.C. Nielson

Saying no to a trip to the
pizza parlor with friends
isn't easy. And that's just
one of the situations
teen dieters have to face.

Company survey that showed
children and teens averaged
25 hours per week watching
television, Gortmaker con-
tends, "In the 1960s, much
less time was spent watching
The corollary to teenagers
as a whole being "more obese,"
Gortmaker says, is that they
are also "less fit." He defines
fitness as bone strength and
lean body mass, rather than
the more common definition of
performance on aerobic tests.
Experts have other concerns
about today's teenagers. Ac-
cording to Eileen Molly of The
Nutrition Center, a research
center in the nutrition depart-
ment of Pennsylvania State
University, eating disorders
like anorexia and bulimia are
not only increasing among

teenagers, but are being ex-
perienced at a younger age.
"Teenagers, especially
young women, tend to be
obsessed with their weight;'
Molloy says. "Thenagers are so
prone to suggestions, and they
tend to go overboard!'
After a particularly wor-
risome incident, one diet pro-
gram learned to be much
more cautious about the teens
it accepts. A teenager on the
diet regimen refused to stop
dieting after reaching her
goal. She continued to lose
weight below that which the
program considered a healthy
Diet programs for teenagers
often require parental permis-
sion,- and usually encourage
participants to exercise more.
But before Mindy, and Mit-

chell, too, go on a diet, parents
need to be sure it is ap-
propriate for them. "There are
a lot of behavior modification
programs aimed at teenagers.
It's important to recommend a
diet that's well balanced and
nutritious. Stay away from fad
diets," advises Molloy.
There are two schools of
thought in diet programs for
teenagers. In some programs,
teens follow a modified diet
plan but participate with the
adults at the weekly weigh
in/discussion sessions. In
others, they have their own
diet and their own sessions.
Weight Watchers Inc., with
several offices throughout the
metropolitan area, offers
classes for teens. The diet plan
is different from the adult pro-
gram because there are more

exchanges offered. The adult
woman's diet for the first week
avera6s 1,000 calories per
day; the youth diet, 1,400
calories with increments
According to Sharon Cardec-
cia, a leader at Weight Wat-
chers, the members discuss
such topics as dining in
restaurants, school lunches
and holiday menus. "We em-
phasize a healthy self-
concept;' 'states Cardeccia.
"They (the teens) don't have to
be 98 pounds, and they don't
have to look like models on
television;' she says. Cardec-
cia stresses that Weight Wat-
chers offers realistic, healthy
"We also try to teach the
teens how to make good
choices!" Cardeccia notes that
discussions center on incorrect
choices such as fast foods, high
fatty foods and foods with high
sodium content.. Then the
meetings discuss the correct
choices of foods such as
vegetables and popcorn.
Cardeccia does not have
figures on the ratio of teens to
adults in Weight Watchers,
but has noticed that more
girls than boys participate.



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